‘When journalism is threatened, democracy is at stake’

International organisations call for increased protection of journalists.


As the world marks Press Freedom Day, several organisations, entities and politicians around the globe have voiced their concerns over the increasing threats faced by journalists, pointing to the need for action to safeguard the profession.

Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova uploaded a video on social media in which she drew attention to the public’s need to be informed, especially in times of a pandemic.

“The pandemic showed the role of information as a public good, that information can save lives. That it is indispensable to make democracies work. I would like to pay tribute to all the journalists who work tirelessly, sometimes at the risk of their life, often under pressure, economic or political, to check facts and keep power in check,” Jourova added.

President of the European Council Charles Michel marked the occasion by paying tribute to those journalists who lost their lives because of the stories they uncovered. Michel posted a video on Twitter featuring slain journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia, Jan Kuciak and others.

“Freedom of the press is a core European value and is essential for democracy. We need to defend such freedom every day and ensure that journalists do their work in safety,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) remembered the 1,400 journalists who were killed because of their job since 1992.

Investigative Journalism For Europe (IJ4EU) and its partners saluted “the bravery of investigative journalists everywhere”. The organisation, which aims at strengthening the watchdog role of investigative journalism in Europe, thanked all those entities and news organisations who have supported its values through different projects.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has called on the European government to defend and protect media freedom. There are currently 69 journalists held in prison in Europe, just for doing their job, EFJ said in a statement. It also referred to the worrying findings in a report by the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism which highlights the deteriorating conditions of journalists across Europe.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, governments across Europe adopted emergency laws and regulations that also imposed extraordinary restrictions on journalists’ activities. In addition, journalists are increasingly working in a hostile environment: in 2020, a record number of alerts submitted to the Council of Europe Platform concerned physical attacks and harassment or intimidation,” the union said.

It called on the governments of Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and the UK to release the 69 imprisoned journalists. It also called on all European governments to fully implement the 2016 Council of Europe Recommendation for the protection of journalism.

The Coalition for Women in Journalism said that for women in the profession, it is a double-edged sword. “Already vulnerable to misogynistic attacks, the risks faced by women have increased multifold as right-wing rhetoric floods our political discourse,” the organisation added. It also published worrying statistics revealing an increasing trend in threats and attacks against female journalists.

Reporters Without Borders marked the event by reiterating its support for investigative journalist Maria Ressa through a campaign dubbed #HoldTheLine for Maria Ressa. The journalist is facing a possible lifetime in prison in the Philippines.

MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa both stood in support of journalists on World Press Freedom Day. Metsola, who has recently been made rapporteur for EU anti-SLAPP efforts, said the EU stands “shoulder to shoulder with journalists facing SLAPPs, harassment or violence.”

Casa said that significance of World Press Freedom day gets more important with each passing year. “We will continue to work to ensure that all journalists are protected and safe from all kind of threats,” he wrote on Twitter.

Daphne among the ‘Faces of Free Expression’ exhibition

The International Free Expression Project (IFEX) launched its ‘Faces’ campaign to encourage people to defend free expression by sharing the stories of the people who work to secure the right to information, or make it safer for journalists to do their jobs.

Assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia features among the ‘Faces of Free Expression‘, an exhibition outside the Pittsburgh Pos-Gazette. Those honoured in this exhibit have made “significant contributions to the cause, but they are part of a much broader global struggle”.

“It is hoped that their stories draw attention to the countless individuals and organisations around the world that work to promote and defend freedom of expression and information, often below the radar, and far too often under threat.”


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